Fired Spanish Editor Says Rajoy Targeted Him After Graft Reports

The founder of El Mundo, Spain’s No. 2 daily newspaper, blamed his dismissal as editor yesterday on the government as retribution for reporting graft claims against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The claims by Pedro J. Ramirez, known in Spain as Pedro Jota, were rejected by Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, a former board member at El Mundo’s Unidad Editorial, a unit of Milan-based RCS Mediagroup SpA.

“The prime minister and the party with an absolute majority made us their adversaries, perhaps even their enemies,” the journalist said in a video posted on the newspaper’s website of his farewell address to the newsroom in Madrid.

El Mundo has published a series of stories the past year that purported to show how Rajoy received illegal payments from a secret slush fund and then supported Luis Barcenas, the official in charge of the payments, when the allegations started to emerge. Rajoy has denied the reports.

“There’s a circle of libel that always works the same way,” Rajoy told the national parliament on Aug. 1. “A criminal gives information to a newspaper, in this case El Mundo, that then manipulates and twists it as appropriate.”

Parliament Attack

Ramirez said that attack in parliament and Rajoy’s decision to skip El Mundo’s November awards ceremony, attended by the sitting premier the past 11 years, showed there was a campaign to weaken him and his newspaper.

“This is the clear thread that links some of the things that have happened in Spain and some of the things that have happened to us in the last few months,” said the editor, who founded the newspaper in 1989.

De Guindos denied the government was involved in the editor’s ouster. “The government has lots of other things to be doing,” De Guindos said in a radio interview yesterday. A spokeswoman for Rajoy declined to comment.

El Mundo’s sales fell by about 25 percent in the 10 months from January 2013 compared with an 18 percent decline for market leader El Pais, according to the Office of Circulation Auditing. El Mundo’s readership traditionally overlaps with the PP’s base.

A spokeswoman for Unidad Editorial declined to comment on Ramirez’s remarks. RCS MediaGroup said yesterday that Deputy Editor Casimiro Garcia-Abadillo would take over from Ramirez as part of its plan to boost the newspaper’s circulation. Ramirez will remain with the newspaper as a columnist.

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